The wildest stretch of highway leading to the Pacific Rim is getting its rough edges smoothed.
The tight, steep, cliffside Highway 4 climb down to Kennedy Lake on the way to Tofino is getting a 1.5-kilometre, $30 million makeover that will take two years, and frequent road closures, to complete.
Construction will begin in the spring of this year and last until the summer of 2020, according B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, which has unveiled a proposed schedule of highway closures that it says are needed to get the job done.
The current schedule suggests the highway will close in both directions everyday from 10 p.m. to midnight and again from 1-4 a.m. and 5-7 a.m. Travelers can expect roughly 30 minute delays during the daytime as the road will be open to single-lane alternating traffic.
Ministry spokesperson Danielle Pope said the work includes removing more than 300,000 cubic metres, roughly 130 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth, of earth and rock to allw for the road, and its shoulders to be widened and a new roadside barrier to be installed between the highway and the lake.
Pope explained that the stretch of highway will also be straightened out and flattened and a hazardous, overhanging, rock will be removed. A new rest area and viewpoint is also expected to be completed.
“Discussions have been ongoing over the past year with First Nations, emergency responders, Parks Canada and business and tourism associations,” Pope said. “This input, along with the feedback from the public information sessions, will be used to finalize the construction timeline, including overnight traffic stoppage periods and a protocol for emergency response.”
She added conversations are also ongoing with local first responders.
“Ministry staff are working closely with first responders to develop an emergency protocol that will ensure emergency vehicles have access through the site at all times during an incident,” she said. “There will also be a contingency plan to open the highway for an evacuation should a disaster event occur.”